X-Men (2nd series) #68

Issue Date: 
October 1997
Story Title: 
Heart of the Matter

Scott Lobdell (plot), Steve Seagle (script), Pascual Ferry (guest pencils), Art Thibert (inks), Chris Lichtner & Aron Lusen/Liquid Graphics (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft/AD (letters), Mark Powers (editor), Bob Harras (chief)

Brief Description: 

Iceman and Cecilia Reyes are in a precinct house in Soho, unaware that Detective Charlotte Jones has just delivered them straight into the hands of Operation: Zero Tolerance, in exchange for learning the location where her abducted son is being kept by O.Z.T. Just as Marrow breaks into the building and causes a power blackout, five Prime Sentinels attack Bobby and Cecilia. The two mutants manage to hold their ground; however, things grow out of control when a massive firefight ensues between the Sentinels and some police officers. Bobby uses his powers to guide the officers to safety and then causes the roof to crash down on the Sentinels. However, one of the Sentinels emerges from the debris and unleashes its blasts against Bobby. Thanks to Charlotte’s heroic intervention, though, she is the only one injured. Cecilia tends to her when Marrow appears. Bobby and Cecilia form an uneasy alliance with her and the trio exits the police station, only to find themselves ambushed by many Sentinels and troops of O.Z.T. Meanwhile, in the docks of Manhattan, Sabra slays two criminals, while in Connecticut, young Timothy Jones misses his mother.

Full Summary: 

Officers Aguinal and Cleveland have completely different life stories. Aguinal is Filipino, a first year rookie and a first generation cop in a family of shoemakers. He drew the Soho precinct assignment because the police coordinator at his training academy took pity on him, telling Aguinal that, if he sent him to a real crime zone, he’d be dead in a week. Officer Cleveland is a nine-year veteran, a third-generation cop and a married father of four. He drew the Soho detail after an early career graze almost pushed his left kidney out of his back. Though both men have different lives, both have been secretly happy about the only thing they have in common – the fact that nothing severe ever really happens in their precinct. Until today, that is.

The two officers have just come down at the basement of the precinct house with their flashlights to investigate whether the power blackout that just occurred has something to do with the fuse box. They are bewildered by what they see, though: two spikes of bone thrust into the box. Aguinal exclaims this is so weird, to which Cleveland replies that Aguinal doesn’t have to tell him that. He is also looking right at it. What is it, though? Aguinal has another question to ask: who left it there? What are these spikes and what does it all mean? ‘Get out’?

Marrow suddenly jumps down on them, after hiding in the shadows all this time. She clarifies that she left the spikes and it means what it says! Just how many different interpretations of “get out” are there? The two officers shriek in horror upon seeing her. “Who…?” Aguinal starts saying when Marrow interrupts him, informing him that he can call her Marrow – once he’s awake again. She instantly slams his head with one of her spikes and renders him unconscious. Marrow informs Cleveland that his colleague is unconscious. Does the surface slug care to join him? Sarah doesn’t mind if he does. Indeed, she kicks him in the face and knocks him out as well.

Standing above the two unconscious officers, Marrow apologizes if that hurt but it’s no more than what the Morlocks got in their day. They just have to be thankful she didn’t kill them. The thought did cross her mind but something stopped her. She’s going to figure out what and exorcise it.

The mutant terrorist known as Marrow has already had her heart ripped out in the past – literally. The X-Man known as Storm tore it from her in heated battle, apparently killing Marrow instantly. Then, Marrow got better – or worse, depending on how you look at it. It turned out she had a second heart – the result of her unique physiology. She’s now surfaced in the middle of the very police station that harbors the X-Man known as Iceman and the newly-discovered mutant, Dr. Cecilia Reyes. Unfortunately, the structure also houses a number of Sentinel Prime Units who have zero tolerance for mutants like Marrow. It looks like Sarah picked the wrong day to crawl out of the sewers.

Outside the precinct house, one guy is delighted to see that the light just went out in the building. He suggests to his friend that they loot it! Guns and drugs and money and… His friend cuts him short, informing the moron that this is a jail!

Inside the precinct house, Detective Charlotte Jones, gun in hand, realizes there is no exit from this. The deal she made with Agents Boyd and Mathers of Operation: Zero Tolerance, the national directive to eradicate all mutants, might just as well have been a deal with the devil. But Charlotte had no other option, because she feared she would lose her own second heart: the one that beats within her son, Timothy.

Holding Timothy’s photo in her hands, she thinks that he is the breath in her lungs… and she wants him back more than she wants her next breath. However, she’s also a cop and she has a responsibility to Bobby and Dr. Reyes. Bobby’s an old friend and Charlotte got him into this mess and she has to help him get out of it. Still, she wonders whether what is morally right is worth risking Timothy’s life. Charlotte swears by all that’s holy… she doesn’t know.

In the interrogation room of the precinct house, Bobby keeps staring at the one-way mirror. Cecilia admits she doesn’t know what he’s staring at but reminds him they are being illegally detained there. According to her, Bobby should either start making some racket about getting them out or use his you-know-what to get them out of here himself. With a cryptic smile, Bobby claims he likes the view. Cecilia exclaims it’s a mirror. Bobby repeats what he said: he likes the view. Plus, it’s just a brownout. If they overreact now, they’re going to draw a lot of attention to themselves that they don’t need. He advises her to keep calm; everything’s cool. Cecilia asks him if he’s out of his mind. Bobby admits she’s not the first to ask.

On the other side of the mirror, five Prime Sentinels dressed as policemen are about to attack. One of them notices that Iceman is aware of their presence. She asks the others to prepare for target engagement. However, one of the other Sentinels asks them to hold: Dr. Reyes’ bioplasmic armor power has still not been counter-programmed.

In the interrogation room, Cecilia asks Bobby to can the wisecracks and stop acting like an idiot. They’re locked in a police interrogation room because she was dumb enough to trust him when he said “trust me.” Furthermore, both of them are in the same room which the real police would never do, making Cecilia doubt that they are even police in the first place. And he tells her “everything’s cool?!”

Bobby asks her to keep it down. He is doing something. He just needed a minute to see if… “Bingo,” he suddenly exclaims. “Bingo what?” Cecilia asks. Bobby tells her he can see the reds of the whites of their eyes: they’re not alone! He tells her to get down – now! The one-way mirror – engineered by East Orange Industrial Glass Inc. – isn’t bulletproof but it was crafted with a resiliency tolerance capable of withstanding a prisoner hurling himself into it at a rapid velocity. It wasn’t manufactured to withstand the might of five Prime Sentinels, though and immediately shatters.

As the Sentinels storm into the room, one of them advises Bobby and Cecilia not to attempt to manifest their genetic anomalies. The Sentinels can counter their abilities. Bobby and Cecilia should yield to them or be negated. As Bobby “ices up,” he urges Cecilia to activate her force shield. Cecilia reminds him that her power doesn’t come with an on/off switch like his. She’s a doctor; her super-power is saving lives! Bobby doesn’t think it will work if she’s dead and urges her to get behind him.

Bobby thinks it’s unbelievable; how could Charlotte betray them like this? She dated one of his best friends, almost became part of the family – and this is what she does to him now? She’d better have a heck of an explanation for this.

As the Sentinels approach them menacingly, Bobby hopes he can put them in deep freeze before they can counter his powers. Cecilia asks him if there’s any chance of that actually happening. “A snowball’s chance in…” Bobby is about to say but his wisecrack is interrupted by one of the Sentinels’ declaration: “Analyzed threat to present Units: negligible. Fire.”

Cecilia suddenly gets in front of him to protect Bobby; her dynamic shield is automatically triggered the minute she is blasted and violently deflects the Sentinels’ blasts. Cecilia exclaims it’s too bad this has to hurt her so much. The impact blows Bobby and Cecilia clear through the back wall. Bobby believes they might actually stand a chance now.

Suddenly, several genuine, normal police officers appear and aim their guns at the Sentinels. “Freeze!” one of the officers exclaims. One of the Prime Sentinels advises the other human/machine hybrids to eliminate the targets – Bobby and Cecilia – but avoid the Homo sapiens. Caught in the middle between the two parties, Bobby and Cecilia are nothing less than flabbergasted. Bobby wonders whether Scott ever had a day like this. “What?” Cecilia exclaims. Bobby explains he was just wondering how things could get any worse.

In a restroom of the White House, Senator Robert Kelly wonders the same thing – how things could get any worse – albeit for very different reasons. Zero Tolerance, he thinks, while looking at himself in the mirror. Isn’t that what the Nazis said for the Jews in the last World War? Kelly wonders whether he has ushered in a new age of the same old hatred in a shiny new wrapper. His soul’s been ripped out of him by mutants at every turn because of his ideals – his life almost rubbed out in the assassination attempt, his wife later murdered. He has a responsibility to the people of this country to spare them the miseries he’s been handed, protect them from a very real danger – doesn’t he? As Kelly examines himself more carefully in the mirror, he suddenly asks himself when he got these wrinkles.

“When you started worrying about the future,” Henry Peter Gyrich suddenly tells him. He assures Kelly it happens to all of them. Kelly doesn’t have to beat himself up over it. Surprised, Kelly admits he didn’t know Gyrich was in here. Gyrich reminds they all have to go here sometime. Kelly agrees and urges Gyrich not to tell him to beat himself up. In a lot of ways, Operation: Zero Tolerance only happened because of Kelly. Maybe not directly but Kelly’s certainly been greasing the wheels that let the train clear the station for years. Gyrich, however, advises Kelly to lose the self-pity; it doesn’t suit him. Besides, the only thing Kelly’s guilty of is looking out for the best interests of the American people. He can live with that, can’t he?

Kelly retorts that ordinary, American citizens are getting mowed down in the crossfire of this initiative. Is that acceptable? Gyrich believes there’s always going to be some “friendly fire” in any battle: it’s the nature of the beast. Kelly retorts that’s insane talk. “For insane times,” Gyrich insists. As long as things check out on balance, he can live with it. Kelly should, too.

Kelly wishes Gyrich could hear how crazy he sounds right now. He knows that Gyrich thinks he’s being perfectly rational but he’s not. Neither Kelly nor Gyrich have been rational in any of this. Kelly believes that Bastion is like some kind of vampire. He had to be invited into their house to gain entry and they granted him permission. Whether Gyrich wants to admit or not, it’s going to be up to them to get Bastion back out. They’re going to have to drive whatever kind of stake they need to through his dark heart. Kelly will do what he can with the President.

As Kelly says “goodnight” to Gyrich and turns the corner that will lead him to the most watershed moment of his entire political career, he knows in his heart that he still has one additional corner left to turn if he wants his life story as an important figure in U.S. history to be a triumph rather than a tragedy. As he enters the room where several men await him, he apologizes for being late; he wasn’t feeling well. He announces they have a problem to address. A very big problem.

Back in the precinct house, a firefight has erupted between the policemen and the Prime Sentinels. The officers are hiding behind boxes, using them as shields. One of them exclaims this is crazed; who are these loose cannons? One his colleagues replies that he doesn’t know. They were marched in here by Sgt. Connor earlier but they obviously weren’t legit. Handcuffed and sitting on the floor, an arrested man asks the officer to let him loose. All he did was to shoplift. For that he’s got to die? The officer tells the arrested man, Mr. Bergen, to keep quiet and stay down. He’ll keep Bergen’s heart beating long enough to book him proper if it’s the last thing he does.

Suddenly, the policemen realize it got cold in there. They see ice in front of them, all over the wall and wonder where it came from. Iceman appears, hurling a giant “ice stake” against the ice-covered wall. He explains that he froze it. The reason is: because ice makes stuff brittle, brittle enough to break and let everybody out. Indeed, the stake breaks through the entire wall. Bobby tells himself that so far so good. Now he just needs to keep his head on straight, think like Scott would and save the common folks. As he generates an enormous ice slide, he urges the policemen to jump clear and ride it down! They may get a cold tailbone but at least they’ll live to complain about it!

The officers comply and start sliding down. Bobby can’t believe he managed to do all that without getting shot through the heart from behind by some Sentinel. He thinks it must be an angel looking out for…

Suddenly, as he turns around, he sees Cecilia, her dress slightly tattered. “An angel of mercy or an angel of death?” she exclaims. Bobby has seen some of the best in action and he knows what he sees in Dr. Cecilia Reyes… the heart of a hero. Despite her fear and unwillingness to accept it or the pain it causes her to use her force-field, she leapt into the breach and saved the life of a man she barely knows and likes even less, so he could save the life of others.

Bobby tells her she’s a lifesaver and thanks her. He returns the favor by creating an ice dome above them. Cecilia wonders what good an igloo is going to do them. They aren’t Eskimos. Bobby explains it’s going to protect them from the ceiling above which should be collapsing about… now! Indeed, Bobby’s ice columns cause the collapse of the roof on top of the astonished Sentinels!

Downstairs, several prisoners, carrying bats and crowbars, decide to seize the opportunity presented by the blackout and start a rebellion! Their leader, Gordo, promises he’s going to find himself some more cops and split their heads open with his bat. Then, he’s going to smash someone’s head until someone gives him the keys to get out of here. One of his underlings congratulates Gordo on the way he thinks; he always has a plan.

The inmates approach a gate of balusters that demarcates the prison cells section from the rest of the precinct house. However, standing there on the other side of the gate is none other than Marrow. She suggests they’d better plan on just staying where they are. They’ll be a lot safer in there with the other criminals, than they will be out here with her. Gordo is understandably freaked out by the fact this girl has bones popping out of her skin and assures her that’s they’re gonna stay right here! “Feh… humans,” Marrow utters in disdain.

Upstairs, Cecilia admits that what Bobby just did worked. It looks like luck to her, but it worked. What now? Bobby tells her he’s trying to think. He realizes they’ve got other civilians inside the building but even more outdoors in the neighborhood. They’re damned if they stay and damned if they go. He wishes…

A Sentinel suddenly emerges from the collapsed ceiling and tells Bobby that a wish is an improbable desire: he has to prepare for elimination! Detective Charlotte Jones suddenly appears and gets in front of Bobby to protect him while shooting at the Sentinel. She gets it but also gets shot in her left shoulder in return. As she lies to the floor, moaning in pain, she apologizes to Bobby for getting him into this. “Hear me, Sentinels! You’ve gone too far!” an enraged Bobby screams. Cecilia undermines his outburst, ironically informing him they can hear him in Queens. She asks him to shut up and get his cold hand over here. She needs an anesthetic. Charlotte helped him so it’s his turn to help her.

Bobby informs her that he’s pulled the moisture out of the air around the area but it won’t hold the Sentinels for long. They have to get out of here now. Cecilia disagrees. Charlotte’s in shock. They have to dress this wound before they can move her. Luckily, Cecilia finds a bottle of alcohol nearby that will help treat Charlotte’s injuries. She asks Charlotte to hold tight: this is going to hurt a little. With her clarity fading, Charlotte start gibbering about her son… they took him… She asks them what happened. “A miracle,” Bobby replies.

Somewhere in the Manhattan docks, Lower West Side.
A watchman is walking around in his flashlight, singing Barry Manilow’s “It’s a Miracle.” Two guys suddenly appear and aim their guns at him, warning him that, if he comes one more step closer, they’ll put a bullet through his Manilow-singing lips. The watchman tells them they aren’t supposed to be uploading two crates this time of night. He asks them to show him their permit. The guys clarify they’re criminals: didn’t he see the guns or notice the threats? One of them tells him that his permit’s called a .45 automatic. Does the watchman want to take a closer look at it?

Suddenly, the guys utter a low moan before collapsing dead on the floor, their backs pierced by dozens of nails. “Who in the world…?” the astonished watchman mumbles. Sabra emerges and tells him that if he had asked where in the world, she would have answered Israel. But as he asked “who,” he may refer to her as Sabra. She’s following a trail that has led her there. However, these men are not the objects of her quest. She tells the watchman he may take credit for them in his report and leaves.

In the precinct house, Charlotte keeps gibbering about her son. Cecilia tells her she’s in shock and she shouldn’t move. Charlotte insists that her Timmy needs her… they have him… She gives Cecilia a picture of her son and explains they said they’d kill him if she didn’t deliver them… “Kill him?” Cecilia exclaims – he’s a little boy.

Marrow suddenly appears, telling them that scads of her people died; Callisto, who means the world to her, is barely clinging to life; even Sarah herself almost met her maker and who came to their rescue? Who was there to save the Morlocks? She discerns a heart of ice in all of them when it comes to a race they deem undesirable. But when a pretty surface child is in danger, the world stops spinning! Shocked by Sarah’s physical appearance, Cecilia asks who or what she is. “You destiny if you don’t show me respect, lady,” Marrow replies.

Bobby, who knows exactly what Marrow is, tells her to back off. Sarah retorts that he backs off. He’d too well to respect her, too; she’s their backup. Cecilia mutters that’s a comforting thought. She informs them that Charlotte’s stabilized. If the two of them want to quit posturing and actually make a move now, Charlotte might live through a trip down to the station’s infirmary. “Who cares if the human lives?” Marrow retorts. They need to protect their own kind, not… Cecilia cuts her short: she’s not her kind by any definition. And that human has as much right to live as any…

Bobby intervenes and asks them to stop. As glad as he is to have the two of them hate each other more than they hate him, he thinks they can all agree that they’d be better off fighting one another somewhere away from there, instead of being killed here by Sentinels. They should go.

A little bit later, the trio walks in the neighborhood. “Hmm,” Bobby murmurs. Cecilia asks him if that “hmm” was in a good way or in a “I think we’re about to die” way. Bobby clarifies it was in a “New York’s never been so abandoned even at this time of night” way. Sarah realizes it’s as abandoned as the tunnels. She likes it this way. She thinks that maybe some beautiful plague came by and killed all the surface… Bobby suddenly realizes what’s happening here. That collapsed roof isn’t what stopped those Sentinels from finishing the fight back in the station. Cecilia asks what that means in English. Bobby explains: they’re being set up.

As they turn around the corner, they see a great number of Prime Sentinels and troops of Zero Tolerance waiting for them. One of the Sentinels commands them to stop where they are. They are hereby sentenced to death by the terms of Operation: Zero Tolerance and its binding declarations. They must prepare to die. Cecilia exclaims she thought med school was going to be the death of her.

Elsewhere, the young Timothy Jones gazes out at the Atlantic Ocean, from the confines of an austere and isolated Connecticut mansion. Present in the room is also an elderly woman. She realizes Timmy misses his mother, doesn’t he? Timothy’s response is affirmative. The woman reminds him what she told him: his mother is working deep undercover to earn enough money to provide a better life for them both. Charlotte asked her to look after Timmy until she can come back to collect him. “Yes, ma’am, but…” Timmy exclaims. “But what, Timothy?” the woman asks him. Timothy believes that the whole world just seems so unfair sometimes. The woman caresses his head and explains that life’s almost never fair. He can count on that.

Characters Involved: 

Iceman (X-Men)
Cecilia Reyes
Charlotte Jones

Senator Robert Kelly
Henry Peter Gyrich


Timothy Jones
Elderly woman (Rose Gilberti)

Various Prime Sentinels and troops of O.Z.T.

Officers Aguinal and Cleveland and other unnamed police officers
Gordon and other unnamed prisoners
Dock watchman
Mr. Bergen

People in the White House
People in the streets of Soho

In photo:
Timothy Jones

Story Notes: 

Aguinal and Cleveland will re-encounter Marrow in X-Men (2nd series) #79.

Senator Kelly’s assassination attempt by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants took place in Uncanny X-Men #142.

Senator Kelly’s wife, Sharon, was killed by Nimrod in Uncanny X-Men #246.

Storm plucked out Marrow’s heart in Uncanny X-Men #325.

Marrow’s people, the Morlocks, were slain in the Mutant Massacre crossover.

Callisto was gravely injured by Prime Sentinels in Uncanny X-Men #346.

A small sign in the first page reads: “Wanted! Pacheco. Where is Pacheco?” Carlos Pacheco is the regular penciler at this point in the series.

Barry Manilow is a singer and songwriter, known for such songs as “Copacabana” and “Mandy.”

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